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Mar 14, 2011 03:49 PM

Thundering Hooves Closed


Just received the "final edition" of their newsletter, which says they're going out of business due to "unfortunate financial circumstances." Anyone know any more details?

  1. They got foreclosed on it appears on the 9th All their assets taken. Remember how they didn't have turkeys last year and the year before?
    I wish they had told us beforehand; maybe we could have done something.

    1 Reply
    1. re: FOGGYNIGHTS

      Too bad, and sad. I sometimes found their meat---especially leaner cuts---dry, even for frozen product. But the neighborhood drop was a shockingly convenient way to get my hands on meat I could cook and serve with a clean conscience. Guess I'm hopping the 24 to Bill the Butcher's Magnolia outpost a little more often.

    2. The inside story, as I've heard it, is that they've been circling the drain for a while as they've failed to succeed with the economics of selling boxed beef. Grass-fed beef has a great story. But too many consumers are still focused on the lowest possible price. And industrial feedlot beef is ubiquitous.

      Consumers love the "Hollywood cuts" of beef. And you might find some people willing to pay more for grass-fed versions of those cuts (even during a deep recession). But if a cow averages 1200 pounds and you can cut 700 pounds of the most desirable and familiar meats, what do you do with the other 500 pounds of meat...the cuts that people are unfamiliar with or don't know how to cook it? With grain-fed, feedlot beef, the "everything else" cuts become ground beef. But with grass fed beef, you can only get so much money for ground beef. The economics just don't work.

      I've certainly heard rumors too about in-fighting within the family that owns the company. But I still think their financial decline began when they moved to a boxed beef model.

      5 Replies
      1. re: cjboffoli

        Huh, thanks for the intel.

        The economics aspect would make more sense to me if they weren't so often sold-out of tongue, tail, cheeks, and offal.

        A shame, in any event. Thanks again.

        1. re: cjboffoli

          Actually, the reason Thundering Hooves sought to grow its sales to more restaurants and grocery stores in 2010 was because it was riddled with debt and had been living on the brink of bankruptcy for a few years. They had been living on borrowed money, and their hope was to grow quickly in 2010 and find new investors to help with the cost of growth by converting debt into equity, but the majority owners couldn't resign themselves to giving up control of the company and turned down the offers that might have saved the company. As I understand it from those who were involved, they would have been unable to survive as a small company given the position they were in. Moving to the boxed-beef model was their last hope, which fell short when they alienated their major creditors. I think the in-fighting had a lot to do with differences of opinions as to whether or not to let their creditors take control, which probably wouldn't have been so bad because all of the creditors were either Thundering Hooves customers or fans of local, grass fed meats.

          1. re: David_the_gourmet

            Interesting and sad. They had ben building that brand from the 80's I think. I expect a new company (or companies) might emerge from the dust. Meanwhile, I've heard that other grass-fed beef providers are having similar issues with profitability. I'm told Skagit Valley is barely breaking even.

          2. re: cjboffoli

            cjboffoli: "[I]f a cow averages 1200 pounds and you can cut 700 pounds of the most desirable and familiar meats, what do you do with the other 500 pounds of meat..."

            Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Few foodworthy animals will dress out at 1200, and fewer still will have that amount of meat to break. But while your math is off, you are right about the best cuts--there is precious little that comes out of an animal. Unless it's called Wagyu or mysteriously called prime ground, no one's going to pay more for good hamburger than the carbon-monoxide-gassed dreck at Walmart.

            The meat biz is wicked, and now 4 major mega ag corporations control something like 70+% of the US market. And small operators are going down every day.

            1. re: kaleokahu

              My intention wasn't to represent some kind of livestock standard, just provide an example of the problem with the equation. In our grandparents' day, beef was expensive..especially the choicest cuts. So they were motivated to find uses for what today we consider the obscure, difficult to handle cuts. Now with so much cheap factory-feedlot beef (in which the actual health and environmental costs of the meat are not included in the price) there is a disincentive to even worry about anything but the most popular, familiar cuts. Until someone figures out how to consistently market or use everything else, the non-feedlot folks are on shaky ground.

              Though it is obviously too late for Thundering Hooves, there is a new business being started right now in Seattle that shows lots of promise for creating a sustainable demand for whole animal sales to restaurants. I'm sure anyone who has sustainable meat on their radar will hear more about it in the coming year.

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